And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:27)
The nature of many evangelistic appeals is to get someone to repeat a prayer, sign a commitment card, and get them into the baptistery. The preacher tries to make it as easy as possible for someone to respond. The message is often: “Do you want a better marriage? Do you want to be happy and fulfilled as a person? Do you want success in business? Then come to Jesus.” While it is possible that some of that may happen, Jesus never promised, “Your Best Life Now.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, wrote in The Cost of Discipleship, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Bonhoeffer was a pastor in Nazi Germany and his opposition to Hitler led to his execution. If we would follow Christ there are three things we cannot do (Luke 14:26, 27, 33).
We cannot put anyone in the place only God deserves (Luke 14:25-26). This teaching is shocking. It was to the multitudes that first heard it. It does not mean that we are to literally feel loathing for our family members. The Bible tells us to honor our parents, for husbands and wives to love each other, for parents to love their children—even to love our enemies. No Scripture can be interpreted to contradict what it means in another place. It was a way Jesus used to make a radical comparison. It meant that the love we have for God is to be so superior to any other love that those other loves would be as hate. J.C. Ryle gave the practical application this way: “If the claims of relatives and the claims of Christ come into collision, the claims of relatives must give way. We must choose rather to displease those we love most upon earth, than to displease Him who died for us on the cross.”
We cannot live for self and live for Christ (Luke 14:27). The crowd thought Jesus was marching to Mt.Zion to overthrow Caesar and replace Herod—reestablishing the glory days of Solomon—and they would, of course, benefit from it. Jesus tells them no—He’s marching to Mt.Calvary to bear a cross and die for sinners—and the result would be eternal life—if we follow Him. That means we must die to self as we take up our cross. Yet, the airwaves today are filled with the so-called prosperity gospel promising health and wealth if you just have enough faith. That is the polar opposite of what Jesus says here.
We cannot cling to the things of this world and still hope to possess heaven (Luke 14:28-35). We might almost conclude Jesus didn’t want people to follow Him, but such is not the case. What He was doing was separating the wheat from the chaff; the believers from the make-believers; the committed from the curious. Following Jesus has to do with building and battling—one costs money and the other costs blood—so He told these stories about counting the cost. What will it cost you? It could cost you everything (v.33). We recognize that all we have is God’s and we are just stewards. He may let us keep it. He may even multiply it for ministry. He can claim it when He wants. Jim Eliot, missionary and martyr said, “He is no fool to give what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” It costs to follow Christ, but costs much more not to do so!